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Botanical name

(Lemon) Balm - Melissa officinalis L.


Labiatae (Lamiaceae)

Useful information about the plant

The balm was originally native to Asia Minor to Southwest Siberia. Today it is farmed in Central Europe and it also occasionally grows wild. It is visited by bees, which is reflected in the generic name (Gr. "melissa" = bee), which can also bring with it the pleasant scent of honey (Gr. "meli" = honey). The epithet officinalis leaves leads one to conclude that it is an old medicinal plant, because the "officina" is the sale room of a pharmacy and "officinalis" means used in the pharmacies. The balm is a shrub that grows up to 80cm high with branched, angular stems. The stalked, broadly ovate leaves are opposite each other on the stem and have a more rippled, serrated leaf edge. The lemon-like smell of the leaves is created by an essential oil, which is in the glandular scales on the leaf surface. If these glands are broken when rubbed they release the essential oil. There are several pale-white flowers in the leaf axils of the upper leaves and they have a strikingly large lower lip and double lip cup. The flowering period is June to August.

Medicinally used plant parts (drug)

The leaves are used with their typical lemon-like scent, which is clearly perceived when rubbed. The commercially available drug comes from crops in Central Eastern and Western Europe.

Ingredients of the drug

Lemon balm leaves contain an essential oil mainly made up from citral and citronella, which are responsible for the lemon-like aroma and also Lamiaceen tannins (main representatives: rosmarinic acid) and flavonoids.

Descriptions of the quality

The quality of the following drugs or drug preparations is specified in the European Pharmacopoeia (Ph. Eur.):

  • Lemon balm leaves (Melissa folium)
  • Lemon balm leaves dried extract (Melissae folii extractum siccum)

Medical Application

Recognised medical use

Internally for functional gastrointestinal disorders and related nervous sleeping disorders. Externally for herpes infections (cold sores caused by herpes simplex) (Commission E, ESCOP). The HMPC has classified lemon balm leaves as traditional herbal medicinal products (see traditional use).

Traditional use

The HMPC has categorised lemon balm leaves as a traditional herbal medicinal product (§ 39a AMG). Based on many years of experience balm leaves can be used to improve stress-related symptoms and are used as a sleep aid for mild cramping discomfort in the gastro-intestinal tract (with flatulence).
Lemon balm leaves in combination with other drugs (e.g. valerian root) to improve the state of nervous stress, to improve the cardiovascular function (traditional use acc. to § 109a).

Medicinal herbal preparations in finished drug products

  • Lemon balm leaves as a tea, even in tea bags, often combined with other sedative drugs
  • Fluid extract in liquids
  • Alcoholic extracts in drops
  • Dried extract in soluble teas, pills, coated tablets
  • Dried extract in ointments (for cold sores)
  • In preparations for ingestion, lemon balm leaves are often combined with other sedative drugs.
A mixed alcoholic distillate is sold as a "Lemon balm spirit". The lemon balm leaves are put in alcohol together orange peel, ginger root, cloves, cinnamon bark, angelica root and other drugs and then distilled. "Carmelite Water" (spiritus Melissae compositus) is a mixture of different essential oils, including lemon balm oil (often replaced by the cheaper citronella), dissolved in alcohol.


Prepared drugs: see package insert;
tea infusion: drink 1 cup of freshly prepared hot herb tea several times a day.

Preparation of a tea infusion

Pour 150ml of hot water over 1.5 to 4.5g of finely chopped lemon balm leaves (do not boil!). Let it stand for 5 to 15 minutes and then strain.


Lemon balm preparations must be avoided with known allergies to lemon balm.
There are still no studies on the safety of the use of lemon balm leaves during pregnancy, breast-feeding or for use in children under 12 years old.

Side effects

Occasionally allergies


None known


Drug monographs

HMPC, Commission E, ESCOP, WHO Vol. 2

Further reading

Wichtl: Teedrogen und Phytopharmaka, pg. 433
Schilcher: Leitfaden Phytotherapie, pg. 180
Van Wyk: Handbuch der Arzneipflanzen, pg. 204
Kommentar zum Europäischen Arzneibuch (Lemon balm leaves, no. 1447; Lemon balm leaves dried extract, no. 2524)

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